It’s high season for stone fruits in BC - like apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. Here's how to store (and eat up!) that bountiful BC harvest. Stone fruits are incredibly versatile and we'll share the easiest ways to properly freeze, dry, and preserve them in jars - that is, if you have any left over after you've finished enjoying them fresh!
First, get to know your fruit. Apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums are all commercially grown primarily in BC’s Okanagan Valley. The warm days and soil conditions are perfect for growing an amazing variety of stone fruit. Here are a few tips for choosing the very best of each kind of fruit before you start preserving:
All of these fruits can be stored fresh, covered and unwashed in a fridge for up to a week – or, if they’re not quite ripe enough for you, pop them into a paper bag at room temperature for a day or two. You can buy local BC summer fruits either from the produce section of your local grocery store or straight from the farmer at roadside stands, farmers markets, and on-farm stores.
To get the most out of these summer fruits, you’ll obviously want to eat as much as you can fresh – but there are some great reasons to buy a little extra this summer and then preserve it. The first is flavor: by preserving fruit at the height of the season, you’re locking in the best possible flavor to enjoy later. Local fruit in season is also much more cost-efficient than out-of-season fruit – buying local when it’s affordable, delicious and plentiful and preserving it to enjoy in the winter just makes sense. Plus you are supporting your local BC farmers in the process!
Here are 3 ways to preserve the taste of BC summer stone fruits:
Freezing: Freezing is the quickest way to preserve stone fruit. Start by washing, peeling, pitting and slicing your fruit. You might consider different shapes for different recipes - say, cubes for muffins, or slices for future pie filling. Lay flat on a piece of parchment paper, and freeze until solid (about 4 hours, or overnight). Then, put your fruit into an air-tight freezer-safe container, like a reusable plastic bag, to enjoy later in the year. Frozen fruit is good for about six months in an airtight container, and can be used in baked goods, smoothies, or jams.
Drying: To dry fruits for use in trail mix or granola, just wash, peel, pit and make thin, even slices. Dip the fruit in a solution of equal parts lemon juice and water for 10 minutes. Then place your fruits on a tray in a dehydrator or oven, and dry at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll be ready when they’re totally dry to the touch, somewhere in the range of 5-24 hours. Put your dried fruit in an air-tight container and enjoy. (If you want a very detailed guide to drying fruit, check out this guide).
Canning: Canning fruit takes a little more preparation, but is well worth the extra effort - when canned properly, fruit can last for a year . Check out BC Tree Fruits’ detailed guide to canning for step-by-step instructions and recipes that make canning fruit easy. Once you’ve made your preserves, try them out in a recipe like this Peachy Cheesecake, or save them for when you need a taste of summer sunshine. If you lack the supplies to can your stone fruit, making freezer jam is a delicious way to quickly preserve it by combining sugar, pectin, lemon juice and fruit on a stove top, then freezing. Once defrosted, freezer jam is good in the fridge for about 3 weeks. Here are a few of our favourite canning recipes: Freezer Apricot Jam and Prune Plum Marmalade.
Be sure to enjoy some fresh fruit as well! We love these recipes for Peach Basil Bruschetta, and for Marinated Grilled Salmon with Ginger Peach Salsa. Of course, all fresh stone fruit tastes fantastic when you keep it simple - grill nectarine and peach halves on the barbeque and drizzle with balsamic vinegar; or enjoy freshly washed plums and nectarines at a summer picnic. Got a recipe to share, or a favourite local fruit farmer you’d like to support? Join us on Facebook and Instagram, where we’re sharing more tips for enjoying stone fruit season - both now and later.